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2008 marked the tenth year of Audi's Le Mans racing program and in that time the company has become one of the most successful manufacturers of all time in that category. To mark its tenth year - and the final year of the R10 TDI - as the factory representative in sports car endurance racing, the German Automaker teamed up with NFL Films to create a documentary titled Truth in 24. The film, which has had a few selected screenings, will make its big debut in early March when ESPN broadcasts it in the run up to the 12 Hours of Sebring.

We had a chance to watch an advance copy of the film and anyone who has ever seen the work of NFL films will be familiar with the style. It's about far more than simply the action on the track. The film covers the 2008 trek to the June classic in Le Mans. When the R10 debuted in 2006, it was a groundbraking race car. It was purpose-built for the round-the-clock French race and took advantage of a section of the rule book that encouraged alternative fuels. Thus, Audi engineers tapped into the corporate knowledge of diesel engines to produce the amazing new 5.5L twin turbo V12. Continue reading after the jump.

[Source: Audi]

Audi only had exclusive claim on diesel engines for a single season before Peugeot decided to follow suit. Unlike Audi, which opted for an open top car, Peugeot went with a closed top-coupe. Ever since its 2007 debut, the French machine has had the speed advantage and 2008 was no exception. Throughout the early part of the 2008 season which the movie follows, the Peugeots could easily outrun the Audis. What the Audis had was experience as a team.

Racing is always a team sport. The winning driver or drivers end up with most of the glory, but the efforts of the technicians and engineers who design, build and prepare the cars are what put the driver in a winning position. Particularly in endurance racing, everyone must be both physically and mentally prepared to work for months on end to get the cars ready.

It used to be that in a race like Le Mans, most of the cars would almost cruise for the first 22-23 hours of the race. The idea was to avoid mistakes and stay in a position to challenge during the final sprint to the finish in the waning hours. In the past 15 years, though, it has almost become a 24-hour sprint race. Cars and drivers have become so good that they now run as fast the conditions will allow for the full 24 hours.

One of the most compelling segments of the film features Alan McNish providing a running description of a lap of Le Mans in real time with nose camera footage. McNish talks at a mile a minute describing what the driver does as the car moves around the track, truly giving the viewer an impression of the constant activity going on the cockpit. That was one lap. Now just imagine doing that continuously for three hours at a time before handing off to the next driver!

As the film shows however, those conditions can be ever changing. Especially at a place like Le Mans, where the 8.5 mile long track means that one section can be in a downpour while another is dry as a bone, making the right decisions can be critical. No one can afford to put a foot wrong either on the track or in the pits, including race engineer Howden Haynes. Among his responsibilities is deciding which tires are going on the car as well as race strategies.

Knowing that Peugeot's qualified 3.5 seconds a lap faster than the Audis, Haynes knew they could never make up all of that time on the track. Efficiency played a huge part in that. Everything from the engine to the pit stops had to be optimized to reach the goal. The film chronicles how the team made up the speed deficit and emerged victorious for the eighth time in ten years. Anyone who has followed Audi and Le Mans probably already knows the final result. Truth in 24 doesn't focus on that, instead, it chronicles how a group of individuals coalesced into a single unit to reach that goal.

The cinematography is simply stunning with racing footage that truly provides a feeling of the speeds that these cars move. Even for someone who isn't a racing fan, the behind the scenes human drama make Truth in 24 a compelling film to watch. Tune in in early March to see for yourself.

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